Stars, studs and duds: Bradley shines at both ends of the floor

Stars, studs and duds: Bradley shines at both ends of the floor

BOSTON – Conventional wisdom tells you that in dealing with Washington’s Bradley Beal, you have to stay attached to him as much as possible with your best defender.

While that certainly was part of Avery Bradley’s plan in dealing with the Wizards sharpshooter, he knew part of his success defensively would be to hit Beal with an explosive game offensively.

And it was Bradley’s success at both ends of the floor that helped set the tone in Boston’s 110-102 victory.

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Bradley had 20 points for Boston (45-26) which now leads the Wizards (42-28) by 2.5 games for the No. 2 seed in the East and trail East-leading Cleveland (46-23) by 2.0 games.

Although this was the fourth and final regular season meeting between these two, Bradley had missed the two previous games due to an Achilles injury.

“He was motivated; you could tell in his eye he wanted this game,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “He was ready and he was the spark for us at the beginning.”

Bradley scored Boston’s first five points, and seven the team’s first 14 before finishing with an 11-point first quarter.

A First Team All-NBA Defensive Team member last season, Bradley continues to prove that there’s more to his game than just locking up players defensively.

“Avery, obviously, is a leader in that (playing great defense),” Stevens said. “And then he came out and made those first few shots, made some really tough shots off screens, and as much as you have to chase Brad (Beal) around we wanted to run our guys around a little bit too and I thought he (Bradley) set a good tone for us.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards.

 

STARS

Isaiah Thomas

He didn’t have the big fourth quarter scoring the ball that fans are accustomed to, but Thomas did plenty of good things in his return to the Celtics lineup after missing two games with a knee injury. He had a game-high 25 points with four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Bradley Beal

The plan was to make him a volume scorer, which is exactly what the Celtics did. He finished with a team-high 19 points but did so on 6-for-15 shooting along with five turnovers.

Avery Bradley

Arguably the biggest difference-maker of the game, Bradley’s ability to score right out the gates coupled with his rock-solid defense propelled Boston to one of their biggest wins of the season. Bradley had 20 points on 8-f0r-16 shooting with nine rebounds and four assists.

 

STUDS

Celtics rebounding

Normally an area of concern, Boston absolutely dominated the Wizards like we’ve seldom seen them do against any opponent. Boston out-rebounded Washington 54-39 but just as significant, hauled in a season-high 20 offensive rebounds. It was the first time since Game 2 of their 2009 first-round playoff series against Chicago that the Celtics grabbed 20 or more rebounds and came away with a win.

Brandon Jennings

On a night when so many Wizards struggled, Jennings was one of the few positives. He finished with 10 points to go with seven assists off the bench.

Jae Crowder

Yet another strong night for Crowder, his defense and overall presence were critical to Boston’s big win. He had 16 points and nine rebounds in addition to tallying three steals with one blocked shot.

Al Horford

He continues to provide a little bit of everything the Celtics need, stuffing the stat sheet in several categories. He had 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting, along with grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out five assists to go with a pair of blocked shots.

Celtics bench

Tyler Zeller didn’t play much, but his physical play seemingly set the tone for a monster night rebounding for the Celtics. Kelly Olynyk had a near double-double of nine points and a season-high 11 rebounds. And while Marcus Smart was visibly frustrated by some of the calls and non-calls by the referees, he came up with one of the biggest plays – a steal in the fourth quarter – that was critical to the win. Essentially every player head coach Brad Stevens turned to off the bench, came up and delivered in some fashion.

 

DUDS

John Wall

He never got into any kind of flow all game, seemingly alternating between miscues and missed shots. He finished with 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting. And while he had a team-high eight assists, he also turned the ball over five times.

Bradley Beal 'wouldn't call it a rivalry' between Celtics and Wizards

Bradley Beal 'wouldn't call it a rivalry' between Celtics and Wizards

BOSTON –  In what will be the fourth and final matchup between Boston and Washington tonight, the narrative for most of this season has been about how much these two teams don’t like each other.

It sounds like a rivalry in the making, although at least one member of the Wizards’ core doesn’t see it that way.

When asked if this was a good rivalry, Wizards guard Bradley Beal said, “I don't know. I wouldn't call it a rivalry. It's two teams competing their butts off. We're neck and neck right now. It's a matter of who wants it the most.”

The Celtics (44-26) have the second-best record in the East, with the Wizards (42-27) just 1.5 games behind them.

Washington leads the head-to-head series two games to one, so the significance of tonight’s game can not be stated enough.

Because of that, it’s likely to be a hard-fought, feisty battle with tempers at times getting the best of players on both sidelines.

“It’s always gonna get chippy,” Beal told reporters. “It's always gonna be physical but that's not the type of game we're trying to make it. That's not the type of team that we are. We're clean. We try to play hard, keep it clean and try to come out with a win at the end of the day and they try to do the same so I don't call it a rivalry. It is what it is. People gonna hype it up but we just come out and try to get a win.”

That may be true, but there’s no mistaking that what we’ve seen between these two teams this season isn’t your run-of-the-mill matchups, with the competitive juices flowing more heavily than normal.

In Boston’s 117-108 win over Washington on Jan. 11, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated verbal exchange after the game that ultimately had Crowder putting his index finger on Wall’s nose which prompted a response from Wall as both players were soon separated before any punches were thrown.

Both players received league fines for their roles in the incident.

When the two met 13 days later in Washington, all of the Wizards players came to the game donning all-black clothing, a symbol of what they talked candidly about what was going to be a funeral-like night for the Celtics.

They backed up the talk by burying the Celtics 123-108 in a game that wasn’t that close.

“We both want to win,” Beal said. “We're both competitors. We're both tough teams. We don't take nothing from nobody so we stand on what we believe in and if you're not on our team, you're definitely against us and they feel the same way.”

But more than anything, this game is about potential playoff positioning.

Boston and Washington have separated themselves as the second and third-best teams in the East. So whichever squad comes out as the No. 2 seed, would have home court advantage in case they met in the second round of the playoffs.

And as we’ve seen thus far, the home team has won every game this season.

“I just think it’s a very important game,” Wall told reporters. “They're a whole game and a half ahead of us. Their team is trying to find a rhythm the same way we are since All-Star break. We've kinda both been up and down. We know what type of game it could be. A physical game, a very important game. We know we already beat them twice at home and they came here and beat us here so just try to find a way to try to win the season's series so you never know if you're gonna meet up with this team in the playoffs. They got a great team, a great coaching staff, some great players and a superstar in Isaiah (Thomas) and the guys, everybody else they know their role and it'll be a tough match up. I just feel like we got to come out and play defense and we'll be fine.”

And as far as doing anything special prior to the game like they did with the all-black attire in January … “Nah,” Wall said. “Just going out here and trying to play a basketball game and try to come away with a road win against a tough team.”

Crowder on Wizards' all-black 'funeral' plans for Celtics: 'That's cute!'

Crowder on Wizards' all-black 'funeral' plans for Celtics: 'That's cute!'

The Washington Wizards plan to roll into tonight’s game against the Celtics donning all-black clothes, as in a funeral procession, a sign of solidarity and an omen of sorts for a game that they hope ends with them burying the Celtics.
 
When Jae Crowder was asked about the Wizards all-black gear, his initial response...“That’s cute!”
 
More than anything, the Wizards (24-20) are putting a significant amount of value into tonight’s game. A victory would extend their home winning streak to 14.

Meanwhile, the Celtics (26-17) come in looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
 
“This is definitely not Game 7 or the playoffs,” said Isaiah Thomas. “But if they want to take it that serious, they can.”
 
The idea to arrive at the Verizon Center donning all-black was hatched by Bradley Beal, who has some contentious moments, to say the least, with the Celtics recently.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows all about the funeral talk which to him is just that, talk. He’s more concerned with his team doing what they need to do in order to win.
 
Nothing more.
 
Nothing less.
 
“At the end of the day, good basketball teams are physical,” he said. “There’s a line you don’t want to cross. Ultimately, you have to be appropriately physical at a high level. It’s about playing well, focus on your next task at hand. This is a great opportunity to see where we’re at.”

In the Celtics' 117-108 win over the Wizards on Jan. 11, Beal was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after getting into it with Marcus Smart.
 
Last season, Beal was on the receiving end of a left forearm to the face from Smart, who was driving to the basket at the time. The blow resulted in a broken nose for Beal in addition to spending time in the league’s concussion protocol program.
 
And then there’s his backcourt mate John Wall.
 
He was fined $15,000 for his role in a postgame incident with Jae Crowder (who was fined $25,000). Crowder pushed Wall’s nose with his finger, which led to Wall retaliating with a slap towards Crowder’s face.
 
And when the two met back on Nov. 9, Wall was hit with a flagrant-2 foul (an automatic ejection) when he threw Smart down hard to floor in the final moments of a Wizards win.
 
The Celtics have a few games that have become more physical than others recently, but there’s something about this Celtics-Wizards matchup that brings out an elevated level of feistiness.
 
“It’s just all talk; that’s all it is,” Thomas said. “I guess they taking it and running with it. I don’t know what it is. I [saw] the funeral and the all-black thing last night and I just laughed about it. We’ll be there tonight for a game, not a funeral.”